mid-life: discerning the will of God

So, maybe this is not just mid-life, it’s all life long, which surprises me. I thought I was done trying to “figure out the will of God” when I got out of my early to mid twenties.

But hey, here I am. Choices keep coming– imagine that! They become, perhaps, less life-altering choices. I’ve already chosen where to go to college and what to major in (for all the good it does me now, ha ha), and who to marry. I’ve already chosen missionary work in Ukraine, though I’ve realized that that also could change (though I don’t see any moves of God in that direction, phew because I love many things about it).

But you know, life, choices keep coming. Things are always growing and changing.

A few months ago, I started reading Arthur Pink’s book The Attributes of God, just reading it devotionally, usually a chapter a morning– to start my prayer time with meditating on God. (I’m on chapter 21, so I obviously don’t read it every morning.)

God intersects things very intentionally, so I don’t think it’s happenstance that I come to the chapter about “The Guidance of God” just when I’m mulling over some perhaps-minor life changes.

Minor because, sheesh, when you have a husband in ministry and four kids ages 13 to 4 , there is not much wiggle-room for adding in a whole lot after that.

Sorry, this is a long post, if some of you just want to stop now. It’s OK.

But I wanted to give an overview of this chapter. It’s a good exercise for myself, to internalize the principles more, and maybe it will speak to some of you, too. This is simply my own brief scan of the chapter. You will get a lot more out of it if you read it for yourself here. My encapsulation follows:

Intro: We need clearer language around this subject. Rather than asking vague questions like “Is this according to God’s will?” or “Do I have the prompting of the Holy Spirit?”, we should rather ask ourselves, “Is this in harmony with God’s Word?” or “Does it sqauare with the rule God has given us to walk by?” or “Is it in accord with the example which Christ left us to follow?”

Next Pink says: In your life, focus on obeying what you already know is the will of God. There are many clear, indisputable instructions for us for life

Read the Bible in order to obey it, not merely to praise and laud it. The PRIMARY purpose for which God gave us the Bible is so that we will order our lives by it.

Over and over he says: walk in the revealed will of God. God will not be mocked by someone who wants to “know His will” in one point of life.

Also: Don’t be misled or mislead yourself. By this he means, there are plenty of clear duties given to us in the Bible. Actions like casting lots, open the Bible and putting your finger on a verse, a strong impression, finding freedom in prayer, dreams– Don’t seek direction from these things. And don’t believe them if they go contrary to what is expressed in the Bible.

So: Back to loving and obeying the Scriptures. And when we get to a particular life scenario, what to do?

Don’t hurry. Be ware of impatience, be “jealous of being deceived by appearances,” don’t move ahead of the light given for your path.

Seek daily to please God in the details. He will not then leave us in the dark. Don’t be a fool who leaves God out of life. “Our daily walk is to be ordered by God’s Word. In proportion as it is so we will be kept in His will and preserved from folly and sin.”

Practical obedience works in us spiritual instinct and we become better judges of what to do. “Where God’s commandments are loved by us, we can count upon Him to teach us good judgment.”

“Two main things: the absolute necessity of being controlled by the Word of God without, and having the heart within which is single to God’s glory and set upon pleasing Him–if we are to have the light of heaven on our earthly path.”

Going deeper: The help of the Holy Spirit. The two pitfalls of mysticism and fanaticism. “As the Spirit of holiness, His aim is to deepen the imprint of the restored image of God in the soul, to increase our happiness by making us more holy. Thus he leads to nothing but what is sanctifying.”

Then notes from Proverbs 3:5-6: TRUST 1. Full confidence in the Lord, childlike simplicity, our affectionate love’s reliance in believing dependence and expectation. LEAN NOT: “The highest act of human reason is to disown its sufficiency and bow before the wisdom of God.”

Interesting quotes on that point: “Yet many find it harder to repudiate their own wisdom than they do to abandon their own righteousness…. Philosophizing about our lot, or reasoning about our circumstances, is fatal to rest of soul and peace of heart.”

ACKNOWLEDGE HIM: ask God’s permission in everything, seek His guidance (admit our ignorance), seek God’s glory in everything. seek God’s blessing on everything.

“What is meant by “He shall direct thy paths?” It means, He will make clear to me the course of duty. God’s “will” always lies in the path of duty, and never runs counter to it.”

In a case of two duties and we need to discern God’s will:

  1. Don’t make haste. Ask God to slow you down and calm any feverishness of the flesh.
  2. Ask God to empty your heart of any desire of your own. Otherwise, it is impossible to sincerely ask God what His will is, and impossible to correctly interpret His providences.
  3. Again, don’t skip point two. This is essential. Ask God to empty our hearts of all personal preferences.
  4. Fast. “There is nothing meritorious [favor-gaining] in fasting, but it expresses humility of soul and earnestness of heart.”
  5. Next: “Humbly and sincerely acknowledge to God our ignorance, and request Him not to leave us to ourselves…. Plead before Him His own promises…”
  6. Be on the lookout for God’s answer. Mark attentively each movement of His providence … so the hand of God may often be discerned by a spiritual eye in what are trifling incidents to others.”
  7. Finally, we don’t just need to discover our duty, we need to ask God to help us all along the process of fulfilling our duty– to rightly do the thing He’s shown us to do. Otherwise, the thing will become a snare and curse to us.

So, if you’ve read this far, I’m in points 2-3 right now, in a particular process I’m trying to decide. I feel preference-less, but not fully because I’m scared of the feeling of not having a preference, so I’m pausing here to accept it and adjust to that before I move on.

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